A number of Kansas City restaurants are known to have patrons or former tenants materialize from beyond the grave, apparently unwilling to pass gently into the Great Beyond. Most of the haunted are older buildings with long and colorful histories.
There's Pierpont's, for example, the upscale steakhouse carved from the bones of a former women's seating lounge inside 99-year-old Union Station. Back in 2010, owner Rod Anderson insisted that he had heard unusual noises, late at night, when he was closing up the dining room. "I'm not one who believes any of that," he said at the time. "But there are nights, when I'm closing up, that I really do hear some weird noises. I guess it could be the sound of the refrigeration equipment, but I'm telling you, I never heard any refrigerators sound like that."
The sounds might have unnerved Anderson, but when Zak Bagans and his team from the Travel Channel's Ghost Adventures investigated the Pierpont's space last year, they came away empty-handed. The only spirits they could conjure in the marble-tiled lounge were behind the bar - in bottles.
There's only one local semifinalist in the 46th annual Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest: 27-year-old Talihna Ozturk of Blue Springs. She made it to the semifinalist round (competing with 59 other challengers in her category, "Quick Rise and Shine Breakfasts") with her recipe for Almond Orange Crescent Toasts. To make it to the finalist level in her category, Ozturk - a former English major now working as a full-time caretaker for her 94-year-old grandmother - must garner enough online votes, through September 26, on the Bake-Off Web page (you can link here) to become one of 30 finalists in her category.
If Ozturk can get to the finals, she'll be eligible to compete for the $1 million prize.
An iceberg salad heavy with creamy dressing might be considered "fresh, leafy greens" to some people, but not to chef Zoe LeGrece, who operated one of Kansas City's first vegetarian restaurants, Zo's Cafe, from 1984 to 1994 in the neighborhood now known as the Crossroads.
"People think of greens as something raw or something overcooked," says LeGrece, who frequently teaches vegetarian cooking classes through UMKC's Communiversity. "It only takes a little aplomb in one's cooking technique to see vegetables, particularly greens, in a whole new way."
One of LeGrece's favorite dishes from the Zo's Cafe days are bok choy and kale roll-ups that were inspired by her love for sushi.
Last fall, one of Kansas City's best-known restaurateurs, Steve Cole, was hired as chief operating officer for the Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association. Last week, Cole - who won national accolades for his upscale Cafe Allegro, an iconic fixture on 39th Street from 1984 to 2002 - took a new position as general manager of the River Club. The River Club, located at 611 West Eighth Street, has been an exclusive dining club since 1948.
"The River Club had been actively pursuing me for a couple of months," Cole says. "I hated to leave the Restaurant Association. It really gave me an opportunity to work in the hospitality industry from a different perspective. I had to think long and hard about the decision."
Joe and Carolina Shirley want to open their own restaurant. But they'll have to wait, at least eight more years.
"Our son, Zion, is 10 years old," Joe Shirley says. "I promised my wife that I wouldn't even consider opening a restaurant until we get him through school. When you own a restaurant, you're married to it."
Shirley has worked in enough restaurants to know that truth. He met Carolina in 2001 when they both worked at the Grand Street Café on the Plaza. Shirley was cooking in the kitchen, under the direction of talented executive chef Michael Peterson. Carolina was a server.
Joe Shirley is now the executive chef for a major bank in Kansas City. It pays well, but there isn't a lot of creative freedom - definitely not the freedom of chefs who operate their own restaurants. (Ryan Brazeal, Ted Habiger and Colby Garrelts come to mind.)
So Shirley is expressing his creativity in Uberdine, a new part-time pop-up restaurant. ("The word über translates as a 'superlative example of its kind or class,' which is what we're doing with dining," Shirley says.)
When Lidia's Kansas City opened in the Crossroads 15 years ago, there had never been a restaurant in the former railroad freight house (there are now three), and restaurateur Lidia Bastianich (the proprietor of Felidia, Becco, Esca and Del Posto restaurants in New York City) had never opened a location outside New York (she now has two).
"We were a little nervous at first," says Bastianich, who will be in Kansas City next week for her restaurant's anniversary event. "How do you manage a restaurant from a distance?"
Still, the challenge appealed to her: "We felt the Midwest was underserved by the kind of cuisine we had to offer," she says.
Kansas City has always had Italian restaurants, of course, dating back at least to the early 1900s. For the record: The longest-running Italian restaurants in the city are Cascone's Grill (started as a three-stool diner in 1933), Jasper's Restaurant and the Northland's Cascone's Restaurant (both opened in 1954).
Was Lidia's Kansas City really so different?
I was in Buffalo, New York, last weekend and finally made it to the legendary Anchor Bar, the downtown saloon - not all that far from that city's waterfront - where the dish now known as Buffalo chicken wings was invented (an almost accidental creation, like many great culinary innovations) in 1964 by Teressa Bellissimo, who operated the bar with her husband, Frank. The place, a major tourist attraction in Buffalo's urban core, serves the deep-fried wings with five kinds of sauces: mild; medium; hot; bar-b-que (spicy); and "suicidal," a remarkably intense fiery sauce.
There are other things to eat on the menu (including the very worst Reuben sandwich I've ever tasted in my life), but it's the wings that draw most of the patrons, including the celebrities who have signed photographs hanging on the walls: Kenny Rogers, the late Tim Russert, Hillary Clinton.
The ill-fated midtown restaurant at 5031 Main known - for a year, anyway - as the Beacon is being considered as a future site for the Johnson County-based Nick & Jake's restaurant. (The second Nick & Jake's is in Parkville.) Nick & Jake's owners, Kevin Timmons and Doug Watkins, reportedly have been looking at the venue, which has sat empty since June, as a south Plaza outpost for their successful suburban dining concept.
A representative for Timmons and Watkins said their response to the rumor is, for the moment, "No comment."
Before the Beacon failed, the building, erected in the 1920s to house a dry-cleaning operation, was occupied by Jack Gage American Tavern, the Double Dragon Chinese Restaurant, and several other bars and restaurants.
Welfare is the Opiate of the people.... Patriots, III Percenters, Oath Keepers, Tea Party and…
Soccer before sewers just fits with the overall mantra of the current city government. Glitz…
Guggenheim, Mellon, Vanderbuilt, Hall, Bloch... These people of great wealth created jobs and gave back…
thank you for posting this. It helps to know someone truly understands the process and…
Smacks was good. Wimpys was amazing. After I got my license me and some friends…